Evolution of the Naturalista

Some may call the emergence of the Naturalista a revolution but I call it evolution.  Revolutions are typically associated with sudden and drastic changes in ideas and methods, whereas when one evolves she becomes closer to her unique self.  The Naturalista is someone who loves and appreciates the coil, texture and twist of her hair because she knows that God made her hair perfectly.

The Naturalista celebrates the afro much like our mothers did in the late 60s and 70s.  You may not see her on the cat walk but you can surely find her out and about in any city, walking with the fierceness of a Beyoncé strut, fashioning locks, twists, frohawks and natural coifs.

Countless women have evolved from never knowing the look or feel of their natural hair to embracing their texture, curves and skin color and simultaneously rejecting impossible ridiculous mainstream beauty standards.  Salons are reporting sizable increases in clients desiring to wear natural styles and according to the USA Today article ‘Natural’ hair is making waves among black women, relaxer sales have dropped by 17% from 2006–2011.

Behind the rapid fire growth of going au naturel is not the traditional hair stylist whom many African-American women have historically relied on for maintenance, but are regular women through various independent media channels including blogs, YouTube videos, Twitter, Facebook and online magazines.  They publish posts and videos giving product reviews, styling and care tips along with the message to LOVE YOURSELF.  One-by-one they are changing the world.

Even Essence.com has fallen in line, publishing a host of online photo galleries featuring trending natural styles for any occasion, highlighting the limitless options for a natural sister.  In December, Essence dedicated a whopping sixty-four pages in The Ultimate Natural Hair Bloggers Holiday Gift Guide, featuring some of the most popular black hair bloggers and their top product picks.

When I originally said adiós to my relaxer for good in 1999, wearing your natural hair was a relatively new movement.  Chemically straightened hair was still the preferred method of styling.

Despite feeling liberated, learning how to care and style my hair was a challenge because of the limited product choices and lack of technical advice.  Trial and error were my teachers but I managed to stick with my natural lifestyle for more than four years before giving in to the call of the flat-iron.

For the following six years, I straightened my hair with heat until a coworker, who is white, requested to see my natural texture and after months of asking I relented.  Actually, returning to natural was exciting because I was never really satisfied with how my hair looked when straight.

So in the summer 2011, I took a trip down the black hair aisle at Wal-Mart which looks just as it did back in the nineties, and not surprisingly found products that did not live up to the promises on the labels.   I needed some better products and styling advice, quick!

I conducted a Google search and landed on YouTube which was my introduction to this Natural Hair Boom, I was clueless of its magnitude.  My search resulted in page after page of videos full of styles for everyday, professional, weddings and black-tie events.  I picked up my first braid out tips from the Luvbeinnatural Channel (thanks!).

After more exploration I learned of blogs like Afrobella and Curly Nikki, who provide a wealth of information.   On Twitter I found a community of caring, passionate and informative naturalistas like TribeCalledCurl and HGKWW (Twitter user names), who share helpful tips and lead lively conversations with women all over the country who love wearing their hair natural.

But I must warn you if you decide to go on any of these sites or join any of the chats, learn the jargon and the acronyms associated with the lifestyle or you will be lost in translation.

Mainline retailers like Target are also taking on the natural hair explosion, by selling various natural lines that are prominently displayed on an end cap.  They also upgraded the infamous black hair aisle with an array of options for black women with varying textures.  I recently directed a friend who decided to go natural (who lives in another state) to Target.  She called me as she was in awe by all the product offerings.  Times are changing! Go Target!

The ball doesn’t stop online.  Natural Hair Meetups are popping up all over the country giving natural women the opportunity to meet other like-minded and styled women. A search for “Black Natural Hair” on Meetup.com returned 125 hits for groups in several states including California, New York, Georgia, Arizona, and Indiana.

What started as a search for hair care products turned me on to a huge community of caring women who have pushed back against traditional standards by promoting self-acceptance.  I am not a psychic but see more young women participating in this celebration of hair and walking in freedom of uniqueness.  I see explosive growth and innovation of products that cater to the needs of the Naturalista.  As ATribeCalledCurl, tweeted, “Natural hair isn’t a fad, it’s a lifestyle choice that says I choose to be beautiful just the way I am.”

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I am a writer - on Chapter 2.

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